The [Friday] Papers
By Steve Rhodes
"Not surprisingly, schools with more than 90 percent poverty rates dominated the bottom of the pack [in test scores]," the Sun-Times reports.
If it's not surprising - if it's such received wisdom - why don't we see this connection made more often in the media?
The statistical correlation might lead one to think that the best education reform strategy is a jobs program.
"Meanwhile, neighborhood schools in the top 10 had single-digit poverty rates."
No shit, Sherlock.
The funny thing about at least a minimal level of economic security is that it goes a long way to solving so many other problems, including large categories of crime in particular. Isn't a poverty policy - or, again, a jobs program, if you will - the silver bullet?
"While at least 95 percent of Hadley [Junior High School's] well-off students passed the eighth-grade reading and math tests," the Tribune reports, "about half of their low-income classmates met the same goals, revealing an achievement gap that is as persistent as it is pernicious."
Here's the thing: we address the effects instead of the cause. We bus kids to schools out of their neighborhood to solve what is an issue of housing segregation. We invent new reading programs to solve an economic problem. Similarly, we invent new policing strategies that don't - can't - address the underlying socioeconomic issues. We invent ploys like the public option because health care is viewed as an insurance issue instead of, um, a health issue. It's just bizarre, but for some reason we are just not allowed to discuss the way we organize our economy in this country. I guess it's because so many folks have been brainwashed - thanks, U of C - into thinking that economics follows immutable natural laws, like physics. It doesn't. Amazingly, a few economists have only recently been recognized for discovering that humans don't always act like the wholly rational actors supposed by their theories. And "free markets" are usually constructed markets because otherwise they would go haywire; that's why we have antitrust laws and a regulatory structure that tends to freeze significant industries in oligopolies instead of monopolies.
Like the rest of society, the way we organize our economy is wholly up to us. There are no religious rules to violate - though there are moral ones.
"Family poverty and parenting practices are much bigger drivers of student learning than anything that happens in the classroom," University of California education professor Bruce Fuller told the Tribune.
And, of course, family poverty and parenting practices are linked. You can't help your kids with their homework if you're on your second shitty job, or if gunshots are ringing out all around you, or if you can't afford school supplies, or if you don't have an education yourself and can't afford a tutor.
I've often heard that financial problems are one of the biggest drivers of divorces. That seems kind of fucked-up, but an unstable home life must be one of the biggest factors in student achievement.
Or maybe running is the answer. After all, she's about six figures a year smarter than I am.
Sunny Side Up
"Jed Hoyer, a former assistant to Epstein who was hired this week to be the general manager of the San Diego Padres, might have summed up the the Red Sox' philosophy best when he said, ''One of the things Theo always preached was to be a small-market team with big-market resources','' Gordon Wittenmyer writes in the Sun-Times.
"That has been the Cubs' philosophy under general manager Jim Hendry, and the team finally appears to have the position players rising through the system to make it work."
The Cubs' philosophy under general manager Jim Hendry has been to spend gobs of money on crappy players. The position players who have risen through the system have either been afterthoughts (Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot) or players without positions (Jake Fox, Micah Hoffpauir).
And the Cubs farm system isn't any better than it's ever been. Which is to say it sucks.
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Posted on October 30, 2009
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